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Chapter 90 The Meeting.

  • After Mercedes had left Monte Cristo, he fell into profound gloom. Around hi_nd within him the flight of thought seemed to have stopped; his energeti_ind slumbered, as the body does after extreme fatigue. "What?" said he t_imself, while the lamp and the wax lights were nearly burnt out, and th_ervants were waiting impatiently in the anteroom; "what? this edifice which _ave been so long preparing, which I have reared with so much care and toil, is to be crushed by a single touch, a word, a breath! Yes, this self, of who_ thought so much, of whom I was so proud, who had appeared so worthless i_he dungeons of the Chateau d'If, and whom I had succeeded in making so great, will be but a lump of clay to-morrow. Alas, it is not the death of the body _egret; for is not the destruction of the vital principle, the repose to whic_verything is tending, to which every unhappy being aspires, — is not this th_epose of matter after which I so long sighed, and which I was seeking t_ttain by the painful process of starvation when Faria appeared in my dungeon?
  • What is death for me? One step farther into rest, — two, perhaps, int_ilence.
  • "No, it is not existence, then, that I regret, but the ruin of projects s_lowly carried out, so laboriously framed. Providence is now opposed to them, when I most thought it would be propitious. It is not God's will that the_hould be accomplished. This burden, almost as heavy as a world, which I ha_aised, and I had thought to bear to the end, was too great for my strength, and I was compelled to lay it down in the middle of my career. Oh, shall _hen, again become a fatalist, whom fourteen years of despair and ten of hop_ad rendered a believer in providence? And all this — all this, because m_eart, which I thought dead, was only sleeping; because it has awakened an_as begun to beat again, because I have yielded to the pain of the emotio_xcited in my breast by a woman's voice. Yet," continued the count, becomin_ach moment more absorbed in the anticipation of the dreadful sacrifice fo_he morrow, which Mercedes had accepted, "yet, it is impossible that so noble- minded a woman should thus through selfishness consent to my death when I a_n the prime of life and strength; it is impossible that she can carry to suc_ point maternal love, or rather delirium. There are virtues which becom_rimes by exaggeration. No, she must have conceived some pathetic scene; sh_ill come and throw herself between us; and what would be sublime here wil_here appear ridiculous." The blush of pride mounted to the count's forehea_s this thought passed through his mind. "Ridiculous?" repeated he; "and th_idicule will fall on me. I ridiculous? No, I would rather die."
  • By thus exaggerating to his own mind the anticipated ill-fortune of the nex_ay, to which he had condemned himself by promising Mercedes to spare her son, the count at last exclaimed, "Folly, folly, folly! — to carry generosity s_ar as to put myself up as a mark for that young man to aim at. He will neve_elieve that my death was suicide; and yet it is important for the honor of m_emory, — and this surely is not vanity, but a justifiable pride, — it i_mportant the world should know that I have consented, by my free will, t_top my arm, already raised to strike, and that with the arm which has been s_owerful against others I have struck myself. It must be; it shall be."
  • Seizing a pen, he drew a paper from a secret drawer in his desk, and wrote a_he bottom of the document (which was no other than his will, made since hi_rrival in Paris) a sort of codicil, clearly explaining the nature of hi_eath. "I do this, O my God," said he, with his eyes raised to heaven, "a_uch for thy honor as for mine. I have during ten years considered myself th_gent of thy vengeance, and other wretches, like Morcerf, Danglars, Villefort, even Morcerf himself, must not imagine that chance has freed them from thei_nemy. Let them know, on the contrary, that their punishment, which had bee_ecreed by providence, is only delayed by my present determination, an_lthough they escape it in this world, it awaits them in another, and tha_hey are only exchanging time for eternity."
  • While he was thus agitated by gloomy uncertainties, — wretched waking dream_f grief, — the first rays of morning pierced his windows, and shone upon th_ale blue paper on which he had just inscribed his justification o_rovidence. It was just five o'clock in the morning when a slight noise like _tifled sigh reached his ear. He turned his head, looked around him, and sa_o one; but the sound was repeated distinctly enough to convince him of it_eality.
  • He arose, and quietly opening the door of the drawing-room, saw Haidee, wh_ad fallen on a chair, with her arms hanging down and her beautiful hea_hrown back. She had been standing at the door, to prevent his going ou_ithout seeing her, until sleep, which the young cannot resist, ha_verpowered her frame, wearied as she was with watching. The noise of the doo_id not awaken her, and Monte Cristo gazed at her with affectionate regret.
  • "She remembered that she had a son," said he; "and I forgot I had a daughter."
  • Then, shaking his head sorrowfully, "Poor Haidee," said he; "she wished to se_e, to speak to me; she has feared or guessed something. Oh, I cannot g_ithout taking leave of her; I cannot die without confiding her to some one."
  • He quietly regained his seat, and wrote under the other lines: —
  • "I bequeath to Maximilian Morrel, captain of Spahis, — and son of my forme_atron, Pierre Morrel, shipowner at Marseilles, — the sum of twenty millions, a part of which may be offered to his sister Julia and brother-in-la_mmanuel, if he does not fear this increase of fortune may mar thei_appiness. These twenty millions are concealed in my grotto at Monte Cristo, of which Bertuccio knows the secret. If his heart is free, and he will marr_aidee, the daughter of Ali Pasha of Yanina, whom I have brought up with th_ove of a father, and who has shown the love and tenderness of a daughter fo_e, he will thus accomplish my last wish. This will has already constitute_aidee heiress of the rest of my fortune, consisting of lands, funds i_ngland, Austria, and Holland, furniture in my different palaces and houses, and which without the twenty millions and the legacies to my servants, ma_till amount to sixty millions."
  • He was finishing the last line when a cry behind him made him start, and th_en fell from his hand. "Haidee," said he. "did you read it?"
  • "Oh, my lord," said she, "why are you writing thus at such an hour? Why ar_ou bequeathing all your fortune to me? Are you going to leave me?"
  • "I am going on a journey, dear child," said Monte Cristo, with an expressio_f infinite tenderness and melancholy; "and if any misfortune should happen t_e"
  • The count stopped. "Well?" asked the young girl, with an authoritative ton_he count had never observed before, and which startled him. "Well, if an_isfortune happen to me," replied Monte Cristo, "I wish my daughter to b_appy." Haidee smiled sorrowfully, and shook her head. "Do you think of dying, my lord?" said she.
  • "The wise man, my child, has said, `It is good to think of death.'"
  • "Well, if you die," said she, "bequeath your fortune to others, for if you di_ shall require nothing;" and, taking the paper, she tore it in four pieces, and threw it into the middle of the room. Then, the effort having exhauste_er strength, she fell not asleep this time, but fainting on the floor. Th_ount leaned over her and raised her in his arms; and seeing that sweet pal_ace, those lovely eyes closed, that beautiful form motionless and to al_ppearance lifeless, the idea occurred to him for the first time, that perhap_he loved him otherwise than as a daughter loves a father.
  • "Alas," murmured he, with intense suffering, "I might, then, have been happ_et." Then he carried Haidee to her room, resigned her to the care of he_ttendants, and returning to his study, which he shut quickly this time, h_gain copied the destroyed will. As he was finishing, the sound of a cabriole_ntering the yard was heard. Monte Cristo approached the window, and sa_aximilian and Emmanuel alight. "Good," said he; "it was time," — and h_ealed his will with three seals. A moment afterwards he heard a noise in th_rawing-room, and went to open the door himself. Morrel was there; he had com_wenty minutes before the time appointed. "I am perhaps come too soon, count,"
  • said he, "but I frankly acknowledge that I have not closed my eyes all night, nor has any one in my house. I need to see you strong in your courageou_ssurance, to recover myself." Monte Cristo could not resist this proof o_ffection; he not only extended his hand to the young man, but flew to hi_ith open arms. "Morrel," said he, "it is a happy day for me, to feel that _m beloved by such a man as you. Good-morning, Emmanuel; you will come with m_hen, Maximilian?"
  • "Did you doubt it?" said the young captain.
  • "But if I were wrong" —
  • "I watched you during the whole scene of that challenge yesterday; I have bee_hinking of your firmness all night, and I said to myself that justice must b_n your side, or man's countenance is no longer to be relied on."
  • "But, Morrel, Albert is your friend?"
  • "Simply an acquaintance, sir."
  • "You met on the same day you first saw me?"
  • "Yes, that is true; but I should not have recollected it if you had no_eminded me."
  • "Thank you, Morrel." Then ringing the bell once, "Look." said he to Ali, wh_ame immediately, "take that to my solicitor. It is my will, Morrel. When I a_ead, you will go and examine it."
  • "What?" said Morrel, "you dead?"
  • "Yes; must I not be prepared for everything, dear friend? But what did you d_esterday after you left me?"
  • "I went to Tortoni's, where, as I expected, I found Beauchamp and Chateau- Renaud. I own I was seeking them."
  • "Why, when all was arranged?"
  • "Listen, count; the affair is serious and unavoidable."
  • "Did you doubt it!"
  • "No; the offence was public, and every one is already talking of it."
  • "Well?"
  • "Well, I hoped to get an exchange of arms, — to substitute the sword for th_istol; the pistol is blind."
  • "Have you succeeded?" asked Monte Cristo quickly, with an imperceptible glea_f hope.
  • "No; for your skill with the sword is so well known."
  • "Ah? — who has betrayed me?"
  • "The skilful swordsman whom you have conquered."
  • "And you failed?"
  • "They positively refused."
  • "Morrel," said the count, "have you ever seen me fire a pistol?"
  • "Never."
  • "Well, we have time; look." Monte Cristo took the pistols he held in his han_hen Mercedes entered, and fixing an ace of clubs against the iron plate, wit_our shots he successively shot off the four sides of the club. At each sho_orrel turned pale. He examined the bullets with which Monte Cristo performe_his dexterous feat, and saw that they were no larger than buckshot. "It i_stonishing," said he. "Look, Emmanuel." Then turning towards Monte Cristo,
  • "Count," said he, "in the name of all that is dear to you, I entreat you no_o kill Albert! — the unhappy youth has a mother."
  • "You are right," said Monte Cristo; "and I have none." These words wer_ttered in a tone which made Morrel shudder. "You are the offended party, count."
  • "Doubtless; what does that imply?"
  • "That you will fire first."
  • "I fire first?"
  • "Oh, I obtained, or rather claimed that; we had conceded enough for them t_ield us that."
  • "And at what distance?"
  • "Twenty paces." A smile of terrible import passed over the count's lips.
  • "Morrel," said he, "do not forget what you have just seen."
  • "The only chance for Albert's safety, then, will arise from your emotion."
  • "I suffer from emotion?" said Monte Cristo.
  • "Or from your generosity, my friend; to so good a marksman as you are, I ma_ay what would appear absurd to another."
  • "What is that?"
  • "Break his arm — wound him — but do not kill him."
  • "I will tell you, Morrel," said the count, "that I do not need entreating t_pare the life of M. de Morcerf; he shall be so well spared, that he wil_eturn quietly with his two friends, while I" —
  • "And you?"
  • "That will be another thing; I shall be brought home."
  • "No, no," cried Maximilian, quite unable to restrain his feelings.
  • "As I told you, my dear Morrel, M. de Morcerf will kill me." Morrel looked a_im in utter amazement. "But what has happened, then, since last evening, count?"
  • "The same thing that happened to Brutus the night before the battle o_hilippi; I have seen a ghost."
  • "And that ghost" —
  • "Told me, Morrel, that I had lived long enough." Maximilian and Emmanue_ooked at each other. Monte Cristo drew out his watch. "Let us go," said he;
  • "it is five minutes past seven, and the appointment was for eight o'clock." _arriage was in readiness at the door. Monte Cristo stepped into it with hi_wo friends. He had stopped a moment in the passage to listen at a door, an_aximilian and Emmanuel, who had considerately passed forward a few steps, thought they heard him answer by a sigh to a sob from within. As the cloc_truck eight they drove up to the place of meeting. "We are first," sai_orrel, looking out of the window. "Excuse me, sir," said Baptistin, who ha_ollowed his master with indescribable terror, "but I think I see a carriag_own there under the trees."
  • Monte Cristo sprang lightly from the carriage, and offered his hand to assis_mmanuel and Maximilian. The latter retained the count's hand between his. "_ike," said he, "to feel a hand like this, when its owner relies on th_oodness of his cause."
  • "It seems to me," said Emmanuel, "that I see two young men down there, who ar_vidently, waiting." Monte Cristo drew Morrel a step or two behind hi_rother-in-law. "Maximilian," said he, "are your affections disengaged?"
  • Morrel looked at Monte Cristo with astonishment. "I do not seek you_onfidence, my dear friend. I only ask you a simple question; answer it; — that is all I require."
  • "I love a young girl, count."
  • "Do you love her much?"
  • "More than my life."
  • "Another hope defeated!" said the count. Then, with a sigh, "Poor Haidee!"
  • murmured he.
  • "To tell the truth, count, if I knew less of you, I should think that you wer_ess brave than you are."
  • "Because I sigh when thinking of some one I am leaving? Come, Morrel, it i_ot like a soldier to be so bad a judge of courage. Do I regret life? What i_t to me, who have passed twenty years between life and death? Moreover, d_ot alarm yourself, Morrel; this weakness, if it is such, is betrayed to yo_lone. I know the world is a drawing-room, from which we must retire politel_nd honestly; that is, with a bow, and our debts of honor paid."
  • "That is to the purpose. Have you brought your arms?"
  • "I? — what for? I hope these gentlemen have theirs."
  • "I will inquire," said Morrel.
  • "Do; but make no treaty — you understand me?"
  • "You need not fear." Morrel advanced towards Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud, who, seeing his intention, came to meet him. The three young men bowed to eac_ther courteously, if not affably.
  • "Excuse me, gentlemen," said Morrel, "but I do not see M. de Morcerf."
  • "He sent us word this morning," replied Chateau-Renaud, "that he would meet u_n the ground."
  • "Ah," said Morrel. Beauchamp pulled out his watch. "It is only five minute_ast eight," said he to Morrel; "there is not much time lost yet."
  • "Oh, I made no allusion of that kind," replied Morrel.
  • "There is a carriage coming," said Chateau-Renaud. It advanced rapidly alon_ne of the avenues leading towards the open space where they were assembled.
  • "You are doubtless provided with pistols, gentlemen? M. de Monte Cristo yield_is right of using his."
  • "We had anticipated this kindness on the part of the count," said Beauchamp,
  • "and I have brought some weapons which I bought eight or ten days since, thinking to want them on a similar occasion. They are quite new, and have no_et been used. Will you examine them."
  • "Oh, M. Beauchamp, if you assure me that M. de Morcerf does not know thes_istols, you may readily believe that your word will be quite sufficient."
  • "Gentlemen," said Chateau-Renaud, "it is not Morcerf coming in that carriage; — faith, it is Franz and Debray!" The two young men he announced were indee_pproaching. "What chance brings you here, gentlemen?" said Chateau-Renaud, shaking hands with each of them. "Because," said Debray, "Albert sent thi_orning to request us to come." Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud exchanged look_f astonishment. "I think I understand his reason," said Morrel.
  • "What is it?"
  • "Yesterday afternoon I received a letter from M. de Morcerf, begging me t_ttend the opera."
  • "And I," said Debray.
  • "And I also," said Franz.
  • "And we, too," added Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud.
  • "Having wished you all to witness the challenge, he now wishes you to b_resent at the combat."
  • "Exactly so," said the young men; "you have probably guessed right."
  • "But, after all these arrangements, he does not come himself," said Chateau- Renaud. "Albert is ten minutes after time."
  • "There he comes," said Beauchamp, "on horseback, at full gallop, followed by _ervant."
  • "How imprudent," said Chateau-Renaud, "to come on horseback to fight a due_ith pistols, after all the instructions I had given him."
  • "And besides," said Beauchamp, "with a collar above his cravat, an open coa_nd white waistcoat! Why has he not painted a spot upon his heart? — it woul_ave been more simple." Meanwhile Albert had arrived within ten paces of th_roup formed by the five young men. He jumped from his horse, threw the bridl_n his servant's arms, and joined them. He was pale, and his eyes were red an_wollen; it was evident that he had not slept. A shade of melancholy gravit_verspread his countenance, which was not natural to him. "I thank you, gentlemen," said he, "for having complied with my request; I feel extremel_rateful for this mark of friendship." Morrel had stepped back as Morcer_pproached, and remained at a short distance. "And to you also, M. Morrel, m_hanks are due. Come, there cannot be too many."
  • "Sir," said Maximilian, "you are not perhaps aware that I am M. de Mont_risto's friend?"
  • "I was not sure, but I thought it might be so. So much the better; the mor_onorable men there are here the better I shall be satisfied."
  • "M. Morrel," said Chateau-Renaud, "will you apprise the Count of Monte Crist_hat M. de Morcerf is arrived, and we are at his disposal?" Morrel wa_reparing to fulfil his commission. Beauchamp had meanwhile drawn the box o_istols from the carriage. "Stop, gentlemen," said Albert; "I have two word_o say to the Count of Monte Cristo."
  • "In private?" asked Morrel.
  • "No, sir; before all who are here."
  • Albert's witnesses looked at each other. Franz and Debray exchanged some word_n a whisper, and Morrel, rejoiced at this unexpected incident, went to fetc_he count, who was walking in a retired path with Emmanuel. "What does he wan_ith me?" said Monte Cristo.
  • "I do not know, but he wishes to speak to you."
  • "Ah?" said Monte Cristo, "I trust he is not going to tempt me by some fres_nsult!"
  • "I do not think that such is his intention," said Morrel.
  • The count advanced, accompanied by Maximilian and Emmanuel. His calm an_erene look formed a singular contrast to Albert's grief-stricken face, wh_pproached also, followed by the other four young men. When at three pace_istant from each other, Albert and the count stopped.
  • "Approach, gentlemen," said Albert; "I wish you not to lose one word of what _m about to have the honor of saying to the Count of Monte Cristo, for it mus_e repeated by you to all who will listen to it, strange as it may appear t_ou."
  • "Proceed, sir," said the count.
  • "Sir," said Albert, at first with a tremulous voice, but which graduall_ecame firmer, "I reproached you with exposing the conduct of M. de Morcerf i_pirus, for guilty as I knew he was, I thought you had no right to punish him; but I have since learned that you had that right. It is not Fernand Mondego'_reachery towards Ali Pasha which induces me so readily to excuse you, but th_reachery of the fisherman Fernand towards you, and the almost unheard-o_iseries which were its consequences; and I say, and proclaim it publicly, that you were justified in revenging yourself on my father, and I, his son, thank you for not using greater severity."
  • Had a thunderbolt fallen in the midst of the spectators of this unexpecte_cene, it would not have surprised them more than did Albert's declaration. A_or Monte Cristo, his eyes slowly rose towards heaven with an expression o_nfinite gratitude. He could not understand how Albert's fiery nature, o_hich he had seen so much among the Roman bandits, had suddenly stooped t_his humiliation. He recognized the influence of Mercedes, and saw why he_oble heart had not opposed the sacrifice she knew beforehand would b_seless. "Now, sir," said Albert, "if you think my apology sufficient, pra_ive me your hand. Next to the merit of infallibility which you appear t_ossess, I rank that of candidly acknowledging a fault. But this confessio_oncerns me only. I acted well as a man, but you have acted better than man.
  • An angel alone could have saved one of us from death — that angel came fro_eaven, if not to make us friends (which, alas, fatality renders impossible), at least to make us esteem each other."
  • Monte Cristo, with moistened eye, heaving breast, and lips half open, extende_o Albert a hand which the latter pressed with a sentiment resemblin_espectful fear. "Gentlemen," said he, "M. de Monte Cristo receives m_pology. I had acted hastily towards him. Hasty actions are generally ba_nes. Now my fault is repaired. I hope the world will not call me cowardly fo_cting as my conscience dictated. But if any one should entertain a fals_pinion of me," added he, drawing himself up as if he would challenge bot_riends and enemies, "I shall endeavor to correct his mistake."
  • "What happened during the night?" asked Beauchamp of Chateau-Renaud; "w_ppear to make a very sorry figure here."
  • "In truth, what Albert has just done is either very despicable or very noble,"
  • replied the baron.
  • "What can it mean?" said Debray to Franz. "The Count of Monte Cristo act_ishonorably to M. de Morcerf, and is justified by his son! Had I ten Yanina_n my family, I should only consider myself the more bound to fight te_imes." As for Monte Cristo, his head was bent down, his arms were powerless.
  • Bowing under the weight of twenty-four years' reminiscences, he thought not o_lbert, of Beauchamp, of Chateau-Renaud, or of any of that group; but h_hought of that courageous woman who had come to plead for her son's life, t_hom he had offered his, and who had now saved it by the revelation of _readful family secret, capable of destroying forever in that young man'_eart every feeling of filial piety.
  • "Providence still," murmured he; "now only am I fully convinced of being th_missary of God!"